Fatah and Hamas agree to form unity Palestinian government to end election gridlock

West Bank's Palestinian Authority and Gaza-based Hamas agree on united front in order to hold delayed elections after reconciliation talks in Moscow
Fatah officials Azzam al-Ahmad (L), Abed al-Hafeez Nofal (C), the Palestinian ambassador to Moscow, and exiled Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq (R) at a press conference in Moscow on January 17, 2017 AFP/Getty

The governing bodies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have agreed to bury their differences to form a unity government in order to finally hold delayed elections.

The secular Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, and Islamist militant group Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, will form a new National Council including the Palestinian diaspora to hold elections.

“We have reached agreement under which, within 48 hours, we will call on [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas to launch consultations on the creation of a government,” Fatah spokesperson Azzam al-Ahmad told media after three days of reconciliation talks in the Russian capital of Moscow concluded on Tuesday.

“Today the conditions for [the idea] are better than ever,” Mr Ahmad added.

Relations between Fatah and Hamas have been tense since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip a decade ago.

The first elections since 2007 were due to be held in 2016 but were delayed multiple times after legal complaints filed by various political actors and a high court ruling found elections could only be held in the West Bank.

The non-official Russian brokered talks also involved representatives from the Shia Islamic Jihad militant group, which has not been present at political talks in years.

While in Moscow, Palestinian representatives also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, asking him to pressure US President-elect Donald Trump into reneging on a campaign promise to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The holy city is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War in a move which is not recognised by the international community.

Citing the failure of the Madrid Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia to progress towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spokesperson Ahmad Marzouk of Hamas said it is “imperative to find a new working mechanism” for any future peace talks.

Hamas wants to transition to working with individual organisations and countries in future, he said, adding tht Russia “can play a substantial role” in the region in future.

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